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Lithuanian Premier Resigns

May 1, 1999

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) _ Lithuania’s prime minister announced his resignation Friday, aiming to end a feud with the country’s president that many had feared would impede the country’s reform efforts.

The premier, Gediminas Vagnorius, and President Valdas Adamkus had been locked in an escalating dispute that focused more on questions of governing styles than over the government’s pro-Western reform policies.

Adamkus, who lived for five decades in the United States and promoted a relatively relaxed Western political style, had criticized Vagnorius as heavy-handed. The prime minister countered that Adamkus was playing to populist emotions and overstepping the presidency’s duties.

``My resignation is the best way out of this difficult situation,″ Vagnorius said in a televised speech. ``This conflict harmed the speed of economic reforms and also the image of Lithuania.″

Adamkus had generally supported the coalition government’s reform plans, and Vagnorius said in his resignation speech that he bore no grudge against the president. ``I have to assume part of the responsibility for the failure to prevent this unfavorable situation,″ he said.

The feud boiled over last week when Adamkus called for Vagnorius to go, saying he could no longer trust him. The parliament voted to back Vagnorius, but plummeting public support appeared to seal his fate.

A poll commissioned by the government itself showed 60 percent of the respondents wanted Vagnorius to resign. In contrast, the president has seen his approval ratings soar to nearly 90 percent in recent polls.

Vagnorius was prime minister during the tumultuous final months of Lithuania’s drive for independence in 1991. He resigned in May 1992, about nine months after independence, as the parliament was deadlocked in a dispute over reforms. He returned to the premiership in 1996.

Vagnorius said he will hand in his resignation to Adamkus in person on Monday. The resignation means the other Cabinet ministers will resign as well.

Vagnorius’ Conservative Party and its coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, have 81 of the parliament’s 138 seats and are expected to have little trouble forming a new government.

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